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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Teacher sickout closes Madison schools

By Valerie Strauss

Public schools in Madison, Wisc. closed Wednesday because a large percentage of public school teachers and staff called in sick to protest what they describe as the governor’s union-busting legislation.

Protests have been ramping up against Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) bill that would, if passed by the legislature, eliminate nearly all collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s 175,000 public employees to help close a budget deficit projected to be $3.6 billion by mid-2013.

Officials and members of public and private sector unions are staging protests and rallies at the state Capitol building, and plan to do more as a vote on the legislation is expected any day.

School system officials decided to close down today after about 40 percent of the 2,600 staff and teachers called into an automated system to report absences.

Perhaps ironically, Education Secretary Arne Duncan today convened the second and final day of a labor-management conference in Denver involving 150 school districts to discuss better collaboration between the sides.

It is illegal for teachers to strike in many places, but sick-outs are not quite the same thing. The tactic has been employed around the country more frequently in the past year in response to what teachers say is an attack on their profession and their unions by school reformers and politicians.

In April, teachers in some Florida districts called in sick to protest a bill --eventually vetoed by former governor Gov. Charlie Crist (R) -- that would have made it easier to fire teachers and link their pay to student test scores.

Whether teachers should have the right to strike is highly controversial. Opponents argue that public school teachers provide an essential service and should not be permitted to protest labor conditions by walking off the job.

Teachers say they should have the same rights as other workers, and that taking away the right to strike leaves them with no effective way to make their voices heard. Makes sense to me. What do you think?


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 16, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  collective bargaining, gov. scott walker, madison schools closed, madison teachers, teachers, teachers sickout, teachers strike, teachers walkout  
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Comments

Apparently teachers in DC aren't "essential" enough to be spared 4 furlough days so therefore we should be able to strike.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 16, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"Teachers say they should have the same rights as other workers, and that taking away the right to strike leaves them with no effective way to make their voices heard."

Most workers can't strike. These are public employees, and their working conditions are subject to the democratic process.

They should have every right to walk off of the job for whatever reason they want, and their managers should have every right to ask them not to come back.

Posted by: staticvars | February 16, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Not a very good strategy to win support from parents or the general public.

News from Madison:

"Stacy Billings, a parent of two Madison students, said the district's letter upset her.

She said she supports unions and opposes Walker's proposal but is against a teacher protest during school hours.

"That's not acceptable to me," Billings said. "My tax dollars pay for the teachers to teach and not to protest."

It's unclear whether school will be held Thursday or Friday."

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/wi/article_b21bdd10-39c9-11e0-96ef-001cc4c002e0.html

Posted by: frankb1 | February 16, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

How about using common sense?

The economy is in the tank, and the state is running out of money. From what I read, the teachers are in better shape than a lot of teachers in other states. They have had a sweet deal where they did not have to contribute to their benefits. Now the state wants them to contribute a little.

Wise up, people. Pick the right battle-this is not it.

They should be grateful that they have jobs. A lot of people don't.

Posted by: mmkm | February 16, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

addition to my last comment:

When you do a "sick out". you are lying. Is that a good example for your students? What happened to honor? If you insist on striking, at least be honest about it.

Posted by: mmkm | February 16, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the anger expressed here toward striking teachers. Don't they realize we must protect and support the unions? When unions are strong, they protect everyone's wages and benefits, just by bringing the bottom up. It was the unions that brought us the 40 hour work week, and all the benefits that are being attacked today. Since Reagan we have refused to stand up for our unions and we are seeing the end of the middle class as a result of the weakened state of our unions. The unions traditionally have been able to mobilize against government excess, so why do Americans continue to bite off the hand that feeds them?

Posted by: Anniealia | February 16, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Most parents in Wisconsin support the teachers.

This bill includes limiting collective bargaining rights for teachers, state employees including snow plow drivers, university professors and staff.

Monday university people rallied. About 1,000.

Yesterday there was a rally of about 13,000 people at the capitol. People came in from all over the state.

Today the numbers aren't in yet, but teachers and students, parents and workers shouted "Union busting, just disgusting!" and "Kill this bill".

People are pretty united against this thing. The governor ran on job creation and for some reason, calling the high speed rail a "boondoggle".

He did not say anything about taking away worker rights. People were stunned and now are protesting in a positive non violent way. Local leaders are speaking out about how the bill can damage the state.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 16, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The governor of Wisconsin keeps suggesting that it is just union leaders who are manipulating their members. But there was a public hearing where over 200 people spoke, the overwhelming majority were against the bill.

People are in the streets near the capitol. Not union leaders. People. Childcare workers, social workers, firemen, steel workers, small business owners, nuns, teachers and families.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 16, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

If they weren't a monopoly, then I'd say they can negotiate any employment arrangements they and their employers want. However, you shouldn't be able to have it both ways: Being required to use only those teachers hired into a blanket collective bargaining agreement to educate your children and leaving it up to them when they work and when they don't (plus jobs for life!).

Who's got whom over a barrel?

Posted by: ErvAddison | February 16, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Fire them for the Childish Tantrums!
How do teachers expected to be respected--
when they display this type of behavior?
There are Many, Many unemployed who would give anything to have their jobs, with even Half their benefits!
And, why do teachers need uneducated union
thugs to "speak for them" ?
If teachers want to be considered professionals, they need to clean up their act and lose the union.

Posted by: ohioan | February 16, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

georgia198305: "Most parents in Wisconsin support the teachers."

Really? How did Walker get elected then? How did the Republicans win all those seats in the state Legislature?


"Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has gone further, proposing to end collective bargaining rights for nearly all the state’s 175,000 public sector workers, more than half of whom are teachers. That proposal could pass since Republicans command large majorities in the Legislature."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/education/16education.html?scp=3&sq=Scott%20Walker&st=cse

Posted by: frankb1 | February 16, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Then there's this:

"As Milwaukee County executive, Walker has had a bitter relationship with unions. More than 4,000 workers represented by AFSCME Council 48 have been operating without a contract for nearly two years.

"His union-busting attitude shouldn't surprise anybody," said Rich Abelson, president of the Council 48. "This is very much in keeping with his conservative philosophy."

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/111463779.html

Posted by: frankb1 | February 16, 2011 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Walker was anti union, however, that was not emphasized during his campaign.
Many districts will be closed tomorrow and parents and teachers will be rallying in the capitol square.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 16, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

The vast majority of Americans Do NOT sympathize with the public employees, union or non-union.
There are thousands and thousands of unemployed who'd Gladly take those jobs without collective bargaining, and with Half the benefits too.

Posted by: ohioan | February 17, 2011 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Arne Duncan is supposedly going to call Walker. I doubt it will help because the Republicans already have their minds made up, but, it appears that Duncan is actually on the side of the teachers on this one. Maybe we were wrong about him?

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 1:11 AM | Report abuse

@ohioan
Well, maybe there will be a teaching job up here for you. Come on up.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 1:12 AM | Report abuse

The vast majority of Americans Do NOT sympathize with the public employees, union or non-union.
There are thousands and thousands of unemployed who'd Gladly take those jobs without collective bargaining, and with Half the benefits too.

Posted by: ohioan | February 17, 2011 12:25 AM | Report abuse


There are millions of Chinese, Mexicans and Indians who'd love to have those jobs too. Should we ship them over? It be a lot cheaper than paying a well-educated American to teach our children.
Should we go back to Gilded Age worker's rights just because our economy is in the gutter and there are thousands of unemployed willing to take someone else's job? What happens when the economy recovers and all these "scabs" now realize they can't live on the pay check or can't afford to see a doctor regularly? I guess they'd strike too and then we'd have to import cheap, desperate labor to fill those jobs.

Posted by: limnetic792 | February 17, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The vast majority of Americans Do NOT sympathize with the public employees, union or non-union.
There are thousands and thousands of unemployed who'd Gladly take those jobs without collective bargaining, and with Half the benefits too.

Posted by: ohioan | February 17, 2011 12:25 AM | Report abuse


There are millions of Chinese, Mexicans and Indians who'd love to have those jobs too. Should we ship them over? It be a lot cheaper than paying a well-educated American to teach our children.
Should we go back to Gilded Age worker's rights just because our economy is in the gutter and there are thousands of unemployed willing to take someone else's job? What happens when the economy recovers and all these "scabs" now realize they can't live on the pay check or can't afford to see a doctor regularly? I guess they'd strike too and then we'd have to import cheap, desperate labor to fill those jobs.

Posted by: limnetic792 | February 17, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"When you do a "sick out". you are lying. Is that a good example for your students? What happened to honor? If you insist on striking, at least be honest about it."

Let he (or she) who has never called in sick when they weren't cast the first stone.

Posted by: syvetteavery | February 17, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

To Ohioan: "And, why do teachers need uneducated union
thugs to "speak for them" ?
If teachers want to be considered professionals, they need to clean up their act and lose the union."
You say that the majority of Americans do not sympathize with public employess, unionized or not. I noticed that no one is targeting or attacking firemen or policemen, who, down here in Miami make more money then congressmen and have a lot more loafing around time then us "lazy" teachers.

Posted by: speakthetruth2 | February 17, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Instead of eliminating collective bargaining right's...why doesn't the Governor sit down with the representatives of the union to work out a new agreement?

Once collective bargaining is taken away, the chances of getting it back are very slim to non-existance.

At a time when public schools and teachers are under attack...it is essential for teachers to have an advocate.

This is a conservative political ploy to minimize teachers and other union members...and has nothing to do with the economy except to grow a bigger divide between the have's and have not's.

Posted by: ilcn | February 17, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Here in Wisconsin, the firefighters and police officers also support the teachers and other workers who are going to lose bargaining rights.
Wisconsin's university system will face tuition hikes of 25% if the bill passes. Local school districts will suffer also. Medicaid will be placed under the dept. of Health and that one department will be able to decide who is eligible and who isn't. All controversial and extreme.

However, the most extreme thing here are the collective bargaining rights. Many people voted for Scott Walker not aware that he would try to cut bargaining rights.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
For some uplifting videos in this day of teacher bashing, you should go to Channel 3000 in Madison, Wisconsin.
I was at the protests today. Students showed up out of nowhere from many different schools to march for their teachers.
Many signs read, "We love teachers!"

Also, inside the capitol building the place was rocking with people chanting "Kill this bill" and so forth. Suddenly a
screen above the rotunda lit up and everyone wanted to hear.

Wouldn't you know it, the teachers held up the two finger "peace sign" and within one minute all 5,000 people quieted down.

Amazing and I think only a crowd of teachers would be polite enough to chant "Thank-you" over and over to police and firemen who came to march.

Today the teachers from all across the state came into Madison.

There is a really big story here, the national press seems very slow to pick up on it.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

georgia198305: Is the proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights just a ploy?

Gov. Walker agrees later this week to modify that provision, and then the rest of the bill including the increase in state employees' share of pension and health care costs gets approved?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 17, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Sickout and Protest Closes Madison Schools: Madison schools were closed Wednesday as teachers planned a district-wide absence to attend protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit union bargaining.

District Superintendent Dan Nerad made the announcement at 11 p.m. Tuesday after 40 percent of the 2,600 members of the teachers union had called in sick and more were expected to do so.http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/article_e3cfe584-3953-11e0-9284-001cc4c03286.html

Did George Parker go to Wisconsin after Brother Nathan chased him from office? Milwaukee “Union” Tells Teachers to Stay at Work: While Madison Public School students had the day off, the same was not the case for Milwaukee Public Schools. Administration and local union efforts may have hampered any teacher’s desire to cut class.

Everything appears to be normal at Milwaukee Public Schools, despite an overwhelming amount of teachers calling in sick and canceling class in Madison.

MPS Communications Director Roseann St. Aubin says that’s primarily due to a number of warnings sent out to teachers about cutting class. School officials sent e-mails and held after school faculty meetings. “We sent out a strongly worded statement from the administration yesterday that we do have every expectation that all of our employees will be at their jobs.”, she says. The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association even told their union members that teaching needed to come first.

http://www.fox6now.com/news/witi-20110216-mps-teachers,0,359772.story

Posted by: natturner | February 17, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank god teachers are taking action to stop the proponents of voodoo education who are driven by the malcontent teacher bashers.

I do not know who will win but teachers around the nation now probably understand the dangers.

Of course the malcontent teacher bashers are posting their usual spittle that others should not have what they do not have.

It appears that the United States is having an Egypt moment in Wisconsin according to reports of the New York Times.

Perhaps it is time for the Governor to understand that Americans do not like it when the are given thing in a contract and then they are simply yanked away.

The correct course should have been negotiations and ultimately layoffs if that was absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately Americans really resent it when you just arbitrarily refuse to give them what you said you would pay.

Oh and by the way all the spittle dripping malcontents teacher bashers would be going into a fit if their employer suddenly told them that there would less in their paycheck.

If the Governor continues to think that Americans are peons we really might see a full blown Egypt moment in Wisconsin.

Time will tell whether we have reached bottom and if a majority of Americans are now simply fully paid members of the union of malcontent teacher bashers.

We will soon see if Americans have become a nation of peons.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

@frankb
I thought about that too. But no, he is apparently going to cut the bargaining rights. Last night there was a special session of the Finance Committee. The Republicans proposed having a grievance process take the place of collective bargaining to "amend" the bill.

A Democrat Leah Taylor had an amendment that would have taken all the non fiscal language out of the "budget repair bill" as it is called. This was voted down 12-4 by the Republicans.

In an odd twist of events the Republicans, who won handily in November are suddenly becoming very unpopular because everyone can watch the Hearings on the internet and it is obvious that the Republicans here don't have a real argument for including the bargaining stuff in the bill.

Thousands showed up for a public hearing on Tuesday. About 200 got to speak and they were overwhelmingly against the bill.

It is hard to explain, but, Wisconsin has lost a lot of jobs and the public employees want to do "their part", even though they have actually already conceded a lot.(my opinion)

So, if it were a ploy, it is a politically dangerous one for Walker. The democrats are being cheered by innocent looking teachers side by side with office workers, fire fighters and Bucky Badger, the university's mascot. Then they are waving American flags and you would think "Tea Party" when you look at them, but I think they are serious because Wisconsin is getting screwed by this deal.

Our district here is closed again on Friday because of teachers calling in sick. The vote is tomorrow, the teachers are scared to death, and Walker just keeps saying that the protesters are "only in Madison" or are "only Union leaders".

The local newspaper, the Capitol Times has article after article about how damaging this will be for the University, the state hospital, etc. etc.

fox news is claiming that the DNC arranged the whole thing. but the people are just coming out for this. Also, the Democrats have had this sort of tepid response to the whole thing, nationally, not locally. I feel the Democrats have basically left us out there waving. When I say "us" I mean Wisconsin taxpayers with kids. The education system is going to suffer and the university will cost more.

One more thing. The Wisconsin democrats, Taylor, Shilling, Kauch and Grigsby are the heroes of the day because they are on the Finance Committee and are the only ones who look like they care about the workers.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

@bsmallack
Yes. The New York Times has about the best national coverage of what is going on here in Wisconsin. Fox news is stating that the DNC organized the whole thing (total falsehood). The DNC did send out some lame RSVP thing about the Public Hearing, but the unions and the people were already going to that.
Also CNN reporters were acting as if the Wisconsin democrats weren't doing their job, making the reporters look like total fools. The Democrats were holding off on purpose so that people have time to study the bill before it is passed.
Not only does this bill take away bargaining rights except for on salaries, it is on a fast track. And it appears that Walker himself has caused some of the budget problems by paying his cronies. See the Capitol Times if you're interested in that story, I haven't really analyzed that one yet.
Thanks for your interest.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Also, in fairness the Scott Walker, the security has been excellent. Of course, as one state trooper explained, "We're in the same boat. We're facing the same kind of thing."

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 17, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Missed some school today to join fellow teachers in Madison today. One of the more powerful experiences in my life.
----
All the people I talked with were so bright, articulate, and energetic. I cannot help but think that these public servants are worth the investment.
----
Parents and students have been joining the movement in record numbers.

Posted by: sjstrieker | February 18, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

sjstrieker, this is a Florida teacher wishing you well and thanking you for your courage. You are fighting for all of us.

Posted by: natturner | February 18, 2011 1:09 AM | Report abuse

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